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Sunlight can reduce MS progression

Vitamin D status seems to be associated with reduced disease activity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a slower rate of disease progression, a new study has suggested.

Researchers led by Alberto Ascherio, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, examined whether blood concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D), a marker of vitamin D status, was associated with MS disease activity and progression in patients with a first episode suggestive of MS.

Blood 25[OH]D levels were measured as part of a randomized trial originally designed to study patients given interferon beta-1b treatment. A total of 465 patients (of the 468 enrolled) had at least one 25[OH]D measurement. Patients were followed for up to five years with magnetic resonance imaging.

Increases of 50-nmol/L in average blood 25[OH]D levels within the first 12 months appeared to be associated with a 57 percent lower risk of new active brain lesions, 57 percent lower risk of relapse, 25 percent lower yearly increase in T2 lesion volume and 0.41 percent lower yearly loss in brain volume from months 12 to 60.

New drug target for cocaine addiction identified

A new molecular mechanism has been identified by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, through which cocaine alters the brain’s reward circuits and causes addiction.

The preclinical research by Dr. Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, and colleagues reveals how an abundant enzyme and synaptic gene affect a key reward circuit in the brain, changing the ways genes are expressed in the nucleus accumbens.

The DNA itself does not change, but its “mark” activates or represses certain genes encoding synaptic proteins within the DNA.

The marks indicate epigenetic changes—changes made by enzymes—that alter the activity of the nucleus accumbens.

In a mouse model, the research team found that chronic cocaine administration increased levels of an enzyme called PARP-1 or poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation polymerase-1.
This increase in PARP-1 leads to an increase in its PAR marks at genes in the nucleus accumbens, contributing to long-term cocaine addiction.

Although this is the first time PARP-1 has been linked to cocaine addiction, PARP-1 has been under investigation for cancer treatment.

“This discovery provides new leads for the development of anti-addiction medications,” the study’s senior author, Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Friedman Brain Institute, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said.

Dr. Nestler said that the research team is using PARP to identify other proteins regulated by cocaine. PARP inhibitors may also prove valuable in changing cocaine’s addictive power.

Happier people maintain better physical function

A new study has revealed that people who enjoy life maintain better physical function in daily activities and keep up faster walking speeds as they age, compared with people who enjoy life less.

A study of 3199 men and women aged 60 years or over living in England looked at the link between positive well-being and physical well-being, following participants over 8 years.

Researchers Dr. Andrew Steptoe said the study showed that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age.

“They are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living such as dressing or getting in or out of bed, and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less,” Steptoe added.

It was found that participants in the 60–69-year bracket had higher levels of well-being as did those with higher socioeconomic status and education and those who were married and working.

Not surprisingly, people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke and depression had lower levels of enjoyment of life.

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